Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

11:14:18 pm , 300 words, 5534 views     Categories: Animation

Kenji Matsumoto in Yumekui Merry

I turned on Shigeyasu Yamauchi's new show for J.C. Staff called Yumekui Merry not knowing what to expect, and was amused when the very first shot seemed to be art by Kenji Matsumoto, the awesome artist he had working for him on his last show Casshern Sins. (I wrote about his involvement on that show here and here) I immediately checked the credits and indeed, Kenji Matsumoto and Yukie Yuki are the only two credited with background art. I'm guessing Yukie Yuki did the stuff in the cat world at the beginning. She was also involved in Casshern Sins and is a great background artist in her own right, one of the best. Matsumoto's paintings are for the most part fairly obvious. They have a very similar gritty feeling to what he did in Casshern Sins. There are some sections that seem to be painted over photos that don't look too great, but otherwise it's mostly very nice BG work in the episode.

The episode itself was a mixed bag of horrible stock anime character cliches, some decent animation here and there, a few creative world design ideas, all of it held together by Shigeyasu Yamauchi's usual easily identifiable peculiar directing style that keeps things constantly slightly off-kilter with odd camera angles and frequent unexpected close-ups. Will be worth enduring the annoying anime characters to see what Shigeyasu Yamauchi does with it.

Good animators in the episode include Maru Kanako (who did a solo episode in Casshern Sins), veteran ex-Giants animator Tadashi Shida, Kensuke Ishikawa (who did a solo episode on Wold Destruction ep 3), Minky Momo 2/Detective Conan CD Mari Tominaga, Casshern Sins CD/AD and regular Yamauchi partner Yoshihiko Umakoshi, Yoshihiko Umakoshi associate Terumi Nishii, ero animator and Afro Samurai CD Hiroya Iijima, and Hercules animator Ken Otsuka.

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6 comments

neshru
neshru [Member]

I’m impressed you were able to find elements of interest in this episode.
All I noticed were the horrible stock anime character cliches and the okay yet not impressive animation.

01/09/11 @ 12:30
Muffin
Muffin [Visitor]

A belated happy new year, Ben.

Haven’t watched it, but was rather hoping this might turn out to be a nice series.

The premise didn’t bother me. At the very least, it seemed like the kind of fantasy that could be stylish and engaging in the hands of Yamauchi. Maybe broadly in the vein of Igarashi’s Soul Eater.

The previews had some nice imagery in them, the overall world design, the stylish compositions etc. And I rather liked the design of the title character. Yamauchi seems to know how to use that sort of ornate, sleek anime design in a cinematic and expressive manner. With his moody, near-abstract close-ups of faces and so on. At best, he’s a connoisseur of the kind of imaginative design and image-based storytelling I’d like to see pursued more thoroughly in anime.

Too bad you seem to feel the show only works in fits and starts. Though I’m usually not too bothered by genre tropes and cliches in and of themselves.

Any thoughts/expectations on Yutaka Yamamoto’s “Fractale” series btw?

01/09/11 @ 14:23
Ben [Member]  

neshru - It’s hard to see past the stock characters (and maddening situations we’ve seen over and over like the girl falling on the protagonist), so I don’t blame you for not being able to get into it. I guess I just like Yamauchi’s directing, so I’m willing to give him a little leeway. He’s usually able to create a show with a unique atmosphere and depth. It’s sad to see him saddled with such uncreative characters. I blame the studio for that.

Muffin - Thank you, happy new year to you too.

The designs of the non-human characters were refreshing for being different from the usual anime designs. The dream world sections had a nice atmosphere and visual ethos. It’s not quite up to the level of Soul Eater in terms of being thoroughly visually conceptualized, but there are definitely interesting visual touches here and there like the floating fish skeletons. I agree about him being very good at image-based storytelling. Each image is always striking. It’s not just characters plopped in a shot. He’s good at creating a heady, intense atmosphere that carries you along. He seems to do that by a combination of expressive background art and animation and peculiar layout and storyboarding sensibility. He’s also usually got people with an individual style suited to his own directing working on the art and animation like Umakoshi and Matsumoto.

I’ve never been particularly convinced by Yutaka Yamamoto’s shows to begin with, so I’m probably not the best person to ask, but I’ll definitely give his new show a shot.

01/09/11 @ 19:30
h_park
h_park [Member]

I can’t say much about Yumekui Merry since I haven’t seen it. After visiting its website, I would say that Yumekui Merry’s cliched character design is solely fault of original manga material. Since most manga artists who get TV anime deal are not particularly Avant-garde designers, it’s obvious that we get stuck-in-the rut boring designs.

Since TV production don’t get ample budget and time, typical reformatting of manga design to animation format is unavoidable. Tatami Galaxy avoided that fate because it’s a novel without strong pre-established visual and the producer was smart enough marry a graphic designer with the talented director for the production.

Personally, I wish that manga artists, who are the greatest source of Japanese visual narrative, should go outside and see the real world instead of enamored with existing cartoony visual materials that they accustomed to.

01/17/11 @ 02:04
Seanny
Seanny [Visitor]  

I’ve been watching Merry for all the reasons Ben listed. At its best, it effectively carries a highly visual off-kilter, dream-like vibe that makes it feel like a bootleg Casshern Sins or (sort-of) Bakemonogatari. Admittedly though, it’s just another JC Staff show that happens to push enough of the right buttons for me but I won’t remember watching a year later.

Episode 5, which I just watched, had some really, really interesting battle animation in it. It reminded me of the all singing all dancing musical episode of Kurenai in with its eccentric posing and hyper-floaty animation, which is a perfect fit for Yumekui Merry’s dreamworld battles.

02/07/11 @ 04:24
William Massie
William Massie [Visitor]  

Hey Ben,

It’s been a while, the winter is always a lean time for sun and anime so I was roughing it for a while as far as currently running shows.

I relented and tried two of em, Puella Magi Madoka Magika and Yumekui Merry.

Merry I tried just cause I really admire Yamauchi’s directorial style (plus it looked like it had a choice J.C. Staff crew), didn’t really do anything for me concept wise I am afraid.

However, Puella Magi is really something, it’s a Shinbo joint. It drops the mahou shojo genre into a vat of cynicsm and despair and dresses it up with wild psychedelic imagery. If you can stomach it’s basic trappings, it’s at least visually stimulating as a kinda destruction of mahou shojou genre.

Like Kawamori described his work Macross Plus, “A serious story with a silly plot".

03/05/11 @ 08:48